The :30 Second Candidate

In the North Carolina Senate campaign, Republican incumbent JESSE HELMS was several points behind Democrat HARVEY GANTT in polls taken shortly before the election.

Over a weekend, political consultant ALEX CASTELLANOS wrote and produced an ad called "Hands." Gantt's support of affirmative action had been identified on surveys as an unpopular position.

The controversial "Hands" featured a close-up shot of two hands holding a letter and crumpling it as a narrator says "You needed that job, but they had to give it to a minority."

Helms made up the difference in the polls and won re-election




CASTELLANOS: Well that spot sure did cause a lot of trouble didn't it. I'm very proud of it. I believe every bit of it. You know, my name is Castellanos. My son is named Castellanos. It may be, you know, one day he could get a job or he could get some deal because he is of a some ethnic minority and all of that. I hope he never does. I think that lessens you when you do that.

The message in that spot's very clear and that is nobody should get a job, or be denied a job because of the color of their skin. The vast majority of Americans believe that. And if it's wrong for us to discriminate that way it's wrong for our government to discriminate that way. Again, it's freedom. Now it wasn't very politically correct to say at the time but there's this, you know, you always get the assault logged against you that there's something, you know, when a conservative Republican says the same words that Martin Luther King says, somehow he's racist. And I just don't buy that. I think you're proscribed from talking about quotas and things like that because you're a, you're a white guy.

Q: It's not playing the race card?

CASTELLANOS: Again, if I can't, I don't, I don't give a damn if I'm white, black, or whatever, if I can't say that, that giving somebody a job or denying them a job because of the color of their skin, if I can't say that's wrong, this is not America. I believe that.

Q: Tell me a little about the technique in that ad. The way in which you used hands, the color of the shirt, the ring on the finger, those sorts of things.

CASTELLANOS: I'd like to think we have an incredible amount of foresight and planning on this stuff but actually with ten days to go this campaign was nine or ten points down. And this was an issue that cut on a survey. And so what, wrote that spot Saturday night. Produced it Sunday. Shipped it back to North Carolina in a car Sunday night and had it on the air Monday noon. And the, the guy in the checked shirt actually was the cameraman just because he happened to be dressed right. I was running the camera. And we just flipped the camera over to his ring side so we could see his wedding ring and again let everybody know that there's a family depending on this. The piece of paper he's taking out of his, unfolding is a piece we happened to find in a desk drawer in one of the props, they had a prop desk so we just kind of threw it together. What makes that ad is not technique, it's truth. It says something big and true that Americans believe and that is you shouldn't get a job or be denied a job because of the color of your skin. Tell me you don't believe that.

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